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Official: DEC Says Southampton Beach Projects Violate Permits

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Michael Wright   Mar 29, 2013 1:27 PM
Apr 3, 2013 11:17 AM

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials told a local lawmaker this week that at least three seawalls constructed in recent months along the Southampton Village oceanfront are in violation of the state and local permits allowing the work.

Even as one of the walls was still being constructed by heavy machinery hoisting giant granite boulders into a pile, DEC Regional Director Peter Scully told State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. that state investigators, who made two visits to Southampton Village last month, found that two steel bulkheads and a stone revetment appear to violate the permits that were issued by village Building Department officials, according to Mr. Thiele.

“There are violations of state law as well as the local laws of the village, with regard to the Coastal Erosion Hazard Area,” Mr. Thiele said he was told by Mr. Scully of the seawalls, which front four estates on Gin Lane, just east of Lake Agawam and the Southampton Bathing Corporation. “I would expect that there will be some action from the DEC with regard to enforcement.”

The DEC itself, through a spokesman, has declined to comment on the investigation or the details of the permits issued to the property owners while it is examining the details of their issuance and the erection of the walls. No action was taken to stop the work on any of the three properties—and all three projects in question now appear to be completed.

Village officials said that they have likewise gotten no indication as to how the DEC is approaching their investigation of the stone and steel structures. Village Mayor Mark Epley said that Chief Building Inspector Jon Foster had visited the site of the construction of the seawalls on at least one of their two visits to the village and that they had discussed the issuance of the permits with him.

“Over the last several weeks, we have looked at each one of these permits to see what we thought was appropriate,” Mr. Epley said this week. “I had questioned the installation of those bulkheads down there with Jon, but none of us are really experts in this kind of thing, so we rely somewhat on the DEC to give us guidance here.”

New York State regulates development within ocean dunelands through Coastal Erosion Hazard Area laws, which place restraints on any construction within what traditionally constituted the landward portion of natural dunelands.

In most municipalities, however, the state delegates the authority to review individual projects and issue construction permits to local officials. In Southampton Town, the CEHA is regulated by the town’s Environmental Department. In most of the town’s oceanfront villages, the permits are handled by village building or planning officials.

In 2011, the DEC threatened to revoke the authority of Quogue Village officials to review and issue CEHA permits after it found that several of the permits the village had issued appeared to violate numerous facets of the CEHA laws.

Seaward of the dunes, the Southampton Town Trustees claim jurisdiction to regulate construction of any structures—an authority that has been challenged in court for years by homeowners and municipalities. Since the early 1980s, the Trustees have banned the installation of new hardened protective structures along the oceanfront, because, they say, the walls accelerate erosion of public beaches.

The Trustees did issue a permit for the reconstruction of a rock revetment in front of the house owned by Chris Shumway at 104 Gin Lane. But last week, Trustees said the work that was being done clearly far exceeded what was granted in the permits issued because hundreds of tons of new stone was trucked in to augment the rocks that had been on site already.

The two steel walls, which front the estates of Mark Rachesky and Joshua Harris, were built with state permits issued by the Village Building Department. Neither structure received Trustees permits because consultants for the homeowners said the structures were built landward of where the natural dunes once fronted the properties.

“Everything we’re doing there is consistent with the village and state laws,” Mr. Harris’s attorney, Southampton Village lawyer John Bennett said. “The village was down there throughout the construction of the bulkhead and was fine with it.”

The Town Trustees said this week that they were continuing to discuss their own options with regard to the construction of the seawalls and have not ruled out lawsuits to demand that the structures be removed or altered to fit permits issued to them.

The Trustees recently lost a lawsuit demanding that sandbags buried in the beachhead in front of three Quogue Village properties be removed when the judge ruled that the sandbags were buried landward of the Trustees jurisdiction. The applications for the Gin Lane protections also claim that the structures are outside the Trustees’ limit of jurisdiction.

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As of this morning, the work was still going on.

Will/has the DEC issued a Stop Work Order (or the Village Building Dept.)?

Great reporting by Mr. Wright on this issue in many articles.

Well done!
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Mar 29, 13 3:28 PM
An ominous precedent being set?

" Neither structure received Trustees permits because consultants for the homeowners said the structures are built landward of where the natural dunes once fronted the properties."

The Trustees should jump on this IMO.

The dune crest line used to be WAY south of its current location. If this historical dune location (whether crest or base of dune at highest high tide) is the dividing line now, then ALL the beaches are now private property!

An ...more
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Mar 29, 13 5:16 PM
The Dongan Patent provides a fluid standard with regard to the dune location over time IMO. NOT just a one-time snapshot from history.

As the dune moves so does the Trustees' authority.

Similar to property which abuts a river which moves.
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Mar 29, 13 5:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
If it is not stopped it will destroy the beach that is left!
By sandydog21 (101), Southampton on Mar 29, 13 8:08 PM
Dirt, deisel and oil mixing nicely with the sand at Little Plains at the moment.
Nice job guys.
By ridethetruthwave (15), southampton on Mar 30, 13 10:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you Mr Wright. These walls have to come down. A fine will not stop those whose interests are in conflict with nature. Our magnificent beaches , the pride of the East End, will be lost if there is no enforcement i.e. the walls must be pounded down or removed.
By 10469 (1), Southampton on Apr 1, 13 9:46 AM
This is very serious. If the dangers that some commenters pose are real -- and they probably are, given the experience of western LI and New Jersey -- then it is the most serious issue facing us, as it threatens to destroy both the character and the economy of the community.

Our Town Trustees have been fighting to enforce their jurisdiction in this area, and they must continue to do that. Also, the NY State DEC must be pressured, now, to intervene in order to provide a parallel authority ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1149), Quiogue on Apr 1, 13 11:27 AM
The IS very serious! The Village must back the Trustees and push the DEC to make them remove all hardened structures!! If they don't the beaches will be destroyed.. you can not contain or stop the ocean! Theres are barrier beaches and a source of revenue, destroy them and you will have nothing !!!
By sandydog21 (101), Southampton on Apr 12, 13 8:07 AM
Article updated with more detail.

"Use it or lose it?"

Time for the Town Trustees to take legal action, or tear up the Dongan Patent.

Per TB above, the SH Town Board should align with the Trustees, although in an election year their donations may suffer. You can't serve two masters . . .


"Use it or lose it!"
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 3, 13 5:50 AM
Great editorial in the Press this week.

"Line in the Sand."

Will the DEC come up to speed, or will Big Money rule the roost?
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 5, 13 8:29 AM
Bet the DEC issues no tickets (summon)s to any one involved - they will instead "negotiate" and talk with the attorneys. Had there been a fisherman with an undersized bass involved - they would have made an arrest, and sold the fish. Money talks folks this is a Department that is heavily influenced by politics and money. tell me it isn't true You can bulldoze a dune, just don't catch an undersized fish.
By harrisw (13), sh on Apr 9, 13 10:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
The DEC is an out of control agency with virtually no oversite and no elected head to answer to the voters!! As Harrisw mentioned they will spend incredible amounts of funds(our money) to prosecute alleged fisheries violations involving questionable evidence while letting this fiasco on the beach to continue unabated. Did the Village building inspector have to sign off on any of this construction? Why was the wooden bulkhead removed after the steel was installed? Couldn't be because that was the ...more
By bigfresh (1277), north sea on Apr 12, 13 7:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
The east end of the bulkhead is still there, and the top is exposed now. [between the end of Little Plains and the Beach Club]

Did they really remove the old wood bulkhead at the end of this job? It is visible in one of the photos above just in front of the pile driving machine's left track.

What about the small "jetty" parts of the old bulkhead which ran perpendicular into the ocean? The tops of these were about 3-4' down from the top of the main bulkhead.
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 14, 13 7:07 PM
New snow fencing is WAY seaward of the old dune base AND the old wood bulkhead now buried (east of Little Plains the old bulkhead is still visible).

Check it out!

Where are the DEC and Village Building Dept. on this?
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 14, 13 10:18 AM
Hopefully Mr. Wright will do an update on the new snow fencing this week.
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 14, 13 5:15 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 18, 13 6:12 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 18, 13 8:28 AM
Excellent new article by Mr..Wright in today's Press.

Well done.
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 18, 13 9:13 AM
This excellent article concludes with a quote from geologist Dr. Robert Young:

"So the question becomes, what are you protecting and how much is it worth to have your whole community paying to let people keep their oceanfront homes in place."
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 18, 13 9:19 AM
Bingo!

How much is it worth, as in many many billions of dollars IMO, to harden the entire coastline of Long Island?
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 18, 13 9:24 AM
The new article is now online.
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 19, 13 8:41 AM
If the DEC and the SHT Trustees feel that this work was in violation of the law and the permits, why haven't there been further public statements or enforcement action?
By PBR (4370), Southampton on Apr 27, 13 10:14 AM
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